Everyone procrastinates from time to time. Yet if left unchecked, chronic procrastination can become a real problem. Unfinished tasks that are continually put off raise stress levels for people of all ages, from students to seasoned executives. Though there are many underlying causes of and reasons for procrastination, a few simple techniques can help conquer this habit and help procrastinators develop a healthier approach to daily tasks.
People procrastinate for many reasons, and not all of them may be obvious. In fact, as anyone with a psychology degree will tell you, some donít have anything to do with the stereotypes often associated with procrastinators. Rather than resulting from time management problems or a lack of interest in getting things done, procrastination is a complex issue with a variety of psychological causes. Some of the most common are:
Fear of failure Chronic procrastinators may be worried about the prospect of failing at the task or tasks that are before them. Instead of facing this fear, they find ways to distract themselves so that they donít have to do the work involved. The reasoning is that, if the work doesnít get done, the procrastinator wonít have to deal with potential negative results.
Fear of being wrong Some people are terrified of doing the wrong thing or making an incorrect decision, so they opt to do nothing at all. This fear can stem from a variety of factors, but it leads to the same problem whatever the cause: work goes undone, causing mounting stress for the procrastinator.
Feeling overwhelmed. Having too much to do makes some people anxious, upset or nervous and can cause them to shut down in the face of large amounts of work, leading to procrastination. Feeling overwhelmed may also make it difficult for some people to make decisions, creating a further backlog of unfinished tasks.
Avoidance of unpleasant tasks Itís not always easy to buckle down and do things that arenít fun or interesting. People with chronic procrastination problems often invent excuses or tell themselves little lies in order to avoid having to work on things they donít like. Saying things like, ďIíll do it tomorrow,Ē or ďItís not that important right now,Ē are common evasive tactics.
Getting a ďrushĒ from working under pressure There are some people who feel they truly do their best work when laboring under a deadline. They deliberately put work off until the last minute in the hopes of getting a ďrushĒ from completing the work in a hurry. This kind of haste can lead to poor work quality, high stress levels and a higher potential for mistakes.
Chronic procrastination for any of these reasons can cause serious problems for the procrastinator. As stress mounts, it may become more difficult to sleep, which places further stress on the body. Excess stress can also cause digestive symptoms, skin blemishes and even a weakened immune system. Thatís why itís important to deal with procrastination before it becomes too big to handle.
Luckily, procrastination can be addressed and overcome by taking a solution-based approach. This type of problem solving helps to point the procrastinator in a positive direction by focusing on perspective and personal choice. When the procrastinator recognizes that he or she has the ability to choose what to do about a problem, itís possible for them to turn away from fear and anxiety towards optimism and create a plan for personal success.
Taking the time to prioritize may ease the anxiety some chronic procrastinators feel when confronted with many tasks. Making a list of what needs to be done pins down each individual task and helps to slow rushing thoughts. Once the list is made, itís much easier to figure out which jobs are the most important and which can wait. Putting priorities in order creates a clearer picture of the tasks at hand and reduces the anxiety involved when trying to do too much at once.
Organization is a key factor when it comes to completing tasks. Since feeling overwhelmed or anxious about a workload is a big cause of procrastination, putting things in order is a positive step towards breaking the cycle. When confronted with a large amount of work, take a step back and consider what needs to be done in order to complete it all. Break large tasks down into smaller, more manageable bits and approach them accordingly. This way, the workload will shrink bit by bit and seem much less taxing. Likewise, the completion of each small job means that the end of the work is that much closer.
Chronic procrastinators need not be held prisoner by the fear of failure. Everybody has a limit to what can be accomplished in a day, and trying to do more only makes things stressful and unpleasant. Set reasonable goals for each dayís work and focus on accomplishing those goals. Donít resort to self-deprecating language if there are still a few things left on the ďto doĒ list at the end of the day. Nobody is a superman or superwoman. Saving a few tasks for the next day can actually be healthy as long as the decision to put them off is a conscientious one rather than an evasion tactic.
Procrastination can lead to stressful, unpleasant days both at work and at home. However even chronic procrastinators can break free from the cycle of anxiety and fear by approaching tasks with a reasonable mindset and keeping things organized. Ultimately, just making a few changes can lead to a healthier, happier approach to each dayís workload as it comes.